Augusta: Scandal-hit Tiger Woods said he was blown away by the reception he received from fans at Augusta National Monday ahead of his highly anticipated return to competition at this week`s US Masters.
The American world number one has not played professional golf since winning the Australian Masters on November 15 following startling revelations that he had a string of extra-marital affairs.
"Coming into today I didn`t know what to expect with regards to the reception," Woods told a news conference. "I tell you what the galleries couldn`t have been nicer.
"The encouragement, it blew me away. The people here over the years are extremely respectful but today was something that touched my heart pretty good."
Woods played 18 holes in practice with 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples earlier in the day, and the pair were joined for the last six holes by 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk.
Woods then held his first news conference since his private life unravelled at the end of last year.
The 34-year-old made a carefully managed public appearance with family and friends at PGA Tour headquarters on February 19, saying he was sorry for cheating on his Swedish wife Elin and that he was undergoing therapy.
He finally took questions from the media in two five-minute interviews with the Golf Channel and ESPN last month.
The scandal around Woods erupted after he crashed his car outside his Florida home in the middle of the night in November, a bizarre incident that triggered a storm of media speculation over his private life.
The minor accident led to a parade of women alleging publicly they had had affairs with the golfer.